To say that Dr. Ronald Lehman has changed my life is no exaggeration!
Before meeting him, I had undergone years of PT and various other treatments for back pain due to stenosis, disc degeneration, severe arthritis, and spondylolisthesis. In July, 2001, I had a microdiscectomy at L4-L5. Before the surgery, I had been unable to stand or walk for more than a few minutes. Grocery shopping would leave me in tears. The surgery helped somewhat, but not a great deal, and in the years since, I continued to suffer tremendous back pain.
As the years progressed, so did the pain. Eventually, it spread to my legs and would cause numbness in my legs and buttocks after standing or walking only a few minutes. My activity level was totally dictated by this pain. Also, there was a period of four years when I had constant headaches because of neck pain.
As a child, and then as an adult, I had always been extremely active—walking, biking, tennis, aerobic classes, water classes, and more. The constant pain then changed my life and influenced every decision I made.
Throughout it all, I had great love and support from family and friends and sought not to make them miserable! Chronic pain is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. During those years, I think I had every treatment imaginable and then some, including PT, acupuncture, chiropractic care, many injections in my spine, nerve root flushes, and more.
Finally, in May, 2014, I saw an orthopedist because of knee pain. He say an MRI from just a few months earlier and said he was quite sure that my knee pain was because of my back problems, not because of knee problems. He said, “You need to go to the Barnes Spine Center.”
So, I phoned and was connected to Christine Boston, the darling and capable medical coordinator to Dr. Ronald Lehman, Jr. She spent a lot of time on the phone with me, asking me questions and answering mine. I saw Dr. Lehman in June, 2014. He, too, was so kind in talking to me and answering questions. He examined x-rays and had also seen my MRI and other medical records.
After our conversation, he said he recommended surgery, though he usually did not do that on the first visit. But in light of my many years of pain and all the unsuccessful treatments, he felt it was necessary. He said I had eight areas along my spine that were problems, and he recommended two spinal fusions at L3-L4 and L4-L5. He felt the chance of getting rid of the back pain was 50-50, but that I had about an 85% chance of getting rid of the leg pain, which was a that point far worse.
At no time did I feel pressured to say “yes.” The Doctor and Christine gave me a lot of information concerning the surgery and the long recovery period that would be necessary, including no BLTs for six months—that stands for Bending, Lifting, Twisting/turning and Stooping. The information was extremely helpful and thorough, giving me a very clear idea of what to expect. The decision was really not difficult for me. I liked and trusted Dr. Lehman. His credentials and background are impeccable, and I truly was weary of the pain.
Because of some insurance issues, I was not able to have surgery (at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis) until November 2014, just about one week after turning age 64. I spent four nights in the hospital before coming home, where people cared for me 24/7 for the first month. I was very careful to follow orders, to do my little walks with my walker, to sit indoors as I did not want to risk falling or getting jolted or picking up a cold or the flu from others. I really think following orders was key! I had prayed for contentment and peace, and those were given to me in rich measure. I had an incredible amount of loving support from family and friends, who were all pulling for me to be well.
My only exercise was walking with my walker on a little circuit inside the house with somebody following me—five minutes at a time, six or eight times a day. Before surgery, I tried it and could walk only two minutes because of the pain.
But that all ended! Sitting was rather hard at first, but Christine said it was important, so I followed that order as well. Whenever I had questions or concerns, I phoned Christine. She either knew how to help or consulted with Dr. Lehman and got back to me quickly. I cannot say enough about the two of them.
About two months after surgery, I started PT with a terrific therapist who specializes in patients who have had lower-back surgery. He, too, was kind and helpful and extremely knowledgeable and gave me various exercises to do at home.
Just six days ago, on May 20, 2015, I saw Dr. Lehman for my six-month check-up. He and I are both pleased with the results of my surgery. Fusions can take two to five years to be complete. He said I could resume my arthritis meds, and that has been helpful in reducing pain and stiffness. I had not been able to take them since two weeks before my surgery because the anti-inflammatory meds interfere with fusion. He told me to get on with my life, though I cannot bungee jump or ride roller coasters. Those are hardships I will have to live with!